Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My little speaking tour

Back in February, I spoke to Heartbeats For Life, a group of people interested in preventive heart health and Dean Ornish's lifestyle program. I talked about women and heart disease and the importance of diet and exercise. As a result, I was invited to present to Oasis, an educational program for older adults. I'm also giving the talk on Sunday to the Rochester Area Vegetarian Society.

Yesterday, I went to Oasis to present the talk. I guess the brochure made me sound like this would be a good presentation, as I had a full audience. Everything that could go wrong did. My computer wouldn't boot up, since unknown to me there had been an update to the system last week and all the logins were wiped out. So, here I am, standing in front of an audience of 40 people, and I can't present my slides! To burn time while one of the staff members tried to hook up a computer system that I could use, I introduced myself, and offered to answer questions about women's health and heart disease. Slowly, the questions came in, enough so that I could ad-lib until I had a functional computer that would run my slides!

First I discuss women and heart disease. That gets lots of interested looks and questions. Then I talk about obesity and how Americans are getting fatter since we eat badly and don't exercise.

And then I talk about vegetarian diets. Blank stares. More about the Ornish diet, how vegetarians live longer and are healthier. More blank stares. Then about dairy and the myths behind it, that milk doesn't reduce osteoporosis. Continued blank stares.

And finally, I get to the topic of exercise and cardiac rehabilitation, and it looks like my audience is now with me again. I finish and answer several audience questions.

In all, I'm not so sure how well it went. I had some positive feedback afterward from some of the participants, but I wonder what some of the others were thinking. Maybe the vegetarian stuff was too much? Perhaps it challenged too many preconceived notions, particularly the dairy part? The dairy industry has its hooks so far into the American public that milk is necessary for bone health, and yet there is no single study that shows that increased dairy consumption reduces osteoporosis. In fact it's the exact opposite -- countries with the most dairy consumption have the most osteoporosis.

Perhaps if I give the talk again to a non-vegetarian group, I'll tone down the vegetarian/dairy stuff a bit. I'm not sure. I'm very interested to hear what people had to say.

9 comments:

SusanV said...

Personally, I wouldn't tone it down one bit. It may have been the first time many of these people had heard these hard facts, which accounts for the blank stares. But maybe what you said will stick with them and lead them to do more research. If you water it down, they may never get the chance to hear the unvarnished truth.

Oh, and hi! I don't think I've commented here before, but I do enjoy your blog.

Sue H said...

I hate the idea of toning down the veg info. I get that you want your message to be heard, but part of the problem we face now is because some in the medical community have gone with what they think we are willing to hear, rather that what is the most complete and honest information.

KleoPatra said...

People! Argh! Are so! Close-minded! Argh!!

Good for you to ad lib so well and make proverbial lemonade out of lemons, VeganDoc. I've been in your shoes and I have sweated and freaked. You are calm and collected (you must not be a Pisces!!!).

Glad you have an arena for your voice. That's very important!

Danielle said...

Don't tone it down a bit, but you could point out that if they think a vegan diet sounds extreme, ask them if they don't consider bypass surgery even more extreme.

Sweet Pea said...

If I was giving the presentation then yes I would tone it down b/c I'm not a doctor and North Americans have a lot of faith in doctors (probably the same amount as in the dairy industry). People would think that some whack job despite having a lot of knowledge regarding health.
Since you're a doctor you carry more authority than the regular person. People are shocked to hear that all the things they think they're doing for their health is actually bad.
I'm sure your presentation rocked. The best thing you can do is give people information and it's up to them to use it.

Harmonia said...

I bought the Dean Ornish Reversal to Heart Disease book - there is a lot of interesting stuff in there!

KaiVegan said...

Please, please, don't tone your veg talk down at all. Not a lot of people have the chance to have a platform like you do.

Maybe giving examples or testimonies that the people could relate to would help?

herself75 said...

When you stand there and say "everything you know about diet and nutrition is wrong" (to paraphrase) people will be skeptical. who know tho, maybe someone will go away from it and learn more about being Veg! you may not need to tone down the content, but it may be more in the delivery....

I'm following the Brewer Diet these days. http://www.blueribbonbaby.org and I am really suprised at the emphasis on dairy. not the caclcium or the protien, but the dairy itself! 5 servings of dairy a day! I'd be in the hospital by now! other than the dairy, it is a really good prenatal diet.

and don't feel bad.. you should see the looks I get wehn I get on my breastfeeding soapbox. people get really upset when you tell them that formula is NOT as good as the real thing - even tho it says so on the package! For the life of me I will NEVER understand why anyone would use formula if they didn't have to... ok- stepping off soapbox now...

BlueButterfly said...

I don't think you should tone it down either.